Thinking back on S. Africa

September 24, 2007

I’m now asked on a nearly daily basis, “So, how was S. Africa?” I’ve found that I have a number of responses that I provide depending upon who the questioner is, how well I know them, and how much of an answer they want or are ready to endure.

For all my whining and whinging  and complaints that I’ve voice here, I really did enjoy the time I spent in S. Africa. The work I was involved and assisted with in all 3 laboratories I visited was very rewarding, and better yet, was successful. By that standard alone, my time in S. Africa was well spent and worth all my time and energy.

Yes I did have a number of issues while there: far less connection and bandwidth than I prefer, the accommodations were at times less than satisfactory, the whole International Driver’s permit acquisition problem all created stress and ate  up my time, energy and patience. Despite these multiple frustrations I would return in a heartbeat if the right offer was made. Many of the irritations I faced were solved by the time I left or could have been avoided entirely it I’d had foreknowledge of the situation.  If I’d had the information I was searching for the week I arrived, rather than finding answers 3 weeks into my trip many things would have gone more smoothly.

Knowing the situation you are walking into makes all the difference in the world. With the knowledge and experience I now have,  I would expect any future trips to S. Africa to go much more smoothly and pleasantly. I do hope they will  materialize with time and careful cultivation.


Catching up ever so slowly

September 6, 2007

I’m finally back from all the travels and am now trying to catch up on multiple fronts- at work, at home, with the podcast and listens to podcasts and most importantly with friends. I’m working to get photos uploaded to Flickr, a full redaction of Dragon*Con impressions and goings on, etc.

Check Flicker for the newest photos until I post some of them here.

I arrived in Atlanta yesterday afternoon safe and sound following somewhere near to 30 hours of travel. Better yet, I still had all my luggage which I claimed then passed through customs with both of my checked bags…. Unfortunately, Atlanta does things a bit strangely, and all checked luggage then had to be handed them back to the airport for a final screening and delivery to baggage claim. Yeah, they lost one of my two suitcases in the airport.

So there you have it- I traveled from S. Africa to London Heathrow, shuttled to London Gatwick and from there flew to Atlanta with all bags accounted for only to have one of two pieces of checked luggage go missing in the one mile from the arrivals terminal and customs area to baggage claim. There was nothing terribly valuable or irreplaceable but it’s extremely frustrating to have all your bags in hand then have them lost so very perfunctorily. GAH!

Once a live body was exhumed from the back rooms of British Airways ticketing area, which was unmanned for the better part of an hour I was able to actually file a claim and provide information for the bag to follow me to the Hyatt Regency once they finish trying on my bras and panties in the underground catacombs of the Atlanta International airport. Just a warning to those who fly BA- their customer service SUCKS!

Let me explain. No, that will take too long… let me sum up-

  • Inaccurate information provided over the phone-
    • Refrigeration of drugs (even for 30 hours of travel) is at the “discretion” of the flight staff, even if you assured that refrigeration can be provided.
      • Apparenty the flight attendants have it on good authority that no drug “requires” refrigeration for fllights less than 12 hours
      • They also fail to comprehend that 3+9+6+10+1 > 12…. and are somehow qualified to determine if my drugs are temperature sensitive…. All delivered with an snotty “I know better, you pesky American” attitude.
    • They will only handle lost baggage claim at the airport (ticket counter) or online. . . even if someone tells you that they can initiate a claim over the phone

Once you get a live, warm non-flight attendant body in front of you they are perfectly useful and helpful. Unfortunately they seem to hide such folk in back corners were only the ATF agents can get to them.

The better news is that Dragon*Con starts this evening, or at least check in starts at 4pm. So I must go and find myself 5 hours of entertainment before I sign in for a weekend that I’ve been very much looking forward to. More D*C news as it develops.

Homeward bound…. sort of

August 28, 2007

My flight is due to leave from the Johannesburg airport at 9:15pm this evening, in just a little less than 11 hours from now. I’ll not be going home to Phoenix though, I’ve got 5 days to spend in Atlanta and at Dragon*Con before I see the overly bright, sunny and hot skies of Phoenix.

I’ve a ton of new photos to put up. More pictures from caves, botanical gardens, a variety of creatures from a local game park, including my mauling by a white tiger cub, which is absolutely adorable. Unfortunately, I’ve little time to get them uploaded today as I’ll be leaving from work shortly after lunch to complete final packing and head to the airport for my complimentary invasion of privacy. Once I’ve arrived and settled in Atlanta I’ll get some of those pictures here and even more on my Flickr page.

I spent the later half of last week in Durban, which was warm, humid and often sunny, although my arrival brought blustery winds, cloud cover and some rain.

I promise to be well behaved and get the photos up on Wednesday night….

Photos at last-

August 20, 2007

I’ve finally succeeded in getting out of Edenvale and to some places around Johannesburg, specifically the Apartheid Museum and Sterkfontein Caves. I didn’t take pictures at the museum, it just didn’t have the feel of someplace that you take lots of pictures. It’s an interesting place.

I do have lots of pictures from the caves and am working to upload them to Flickr. Unfortunately, due to the quality of the camera and the less than ideal lighting conditions there are any number which aren’t particularly exciting. I’ll be loading a few here, but you can see many more on my Flickr pages, which are linked near the bottom right of the page.

Sense of scale Geologic forces- Exit Sterkfontein environs

Lead astray by birds-

August 13, 2007

In my attempt to gather photos of anything from the animal kingdom, I tried stalking some ibis-like birds who were plodding near a walkway.

Unfortunately, a water main had burst nearby, an the ground that looked a bit muddy had in fact undergone liquifaction to a depth of a little over a foot. On the positive side, I did not lose my shoe to the sucking ooze, on the negative side, I did succeed in coating both pant legs with mud nearly to the knee….

So no pictures of really cool birds….  but there is always hope for next time.

Photos promised-

August 8, 2007

I’ve promised photos from my stay here in S. Africa, but so far most everything I’ve seen is… well…. rather suburban. This past weekend I went to the local mall- Greenfields and visited a bookstore, purchased the British version of HP and the Deathly Hallows, caught Transformers and ate at an Italian restaurant for lunch/dinner. There one of the few local McDonald’s perhaps a 1/16 of a mile away. While it doesn’t look exactly like the downtown of a typical small to mid-sized American city it really is not much different either.

Worst case, I’ll be getting some pictures of the front garden once we get a warm day, and I’m likely to wander up Van Riebeeck Ave. one (warmer) day soon and take some photos of the local area. I do promise that photos will be forthcoming, I just won’t guarantee anything more fierce, ferocious or furry than some of the birds that inhabit the area.

This first week has been surpising rough. For the first two nights, I was staying in a flat owned by the son of the B&B owners with whom I was supposed to lodging, because they had overbooked the site.  I was given the company car that first evening with no map, and only a single trip to and from the work site. I managed to make it to the B&B, but got horrendously lost in trying to get to the other residence.

After and additional 2 days, and finally moving to the B&B where I’m likely to be for the remainder of my stay I’m told that I do need an international driver’s permit. With the help of the folks from work back in Phoenix, the paperwork is likely to be submitted today, and the permit might be heading back my direction sometime later this week. In the interim, I’m being driven to and from the work site by the kindness of various co-workers.

There’s no heating at the B&B other than an inefficient space heater so most nights I’m retchedly cold (nearly freezing) until I turn in and go to sleep. The days have at least been fairly pleasant with temperatures in the 60’s.

I’ve finally gotten internet access from work, but the chances of getting any connection from the B&B are less than then slim and the options that are available are likely to expensive at best an may not have the best functionality. In addition, a large number of sites are blocked from work, so I can’t update iTunes, or download directly from the associated websites.

The food situation is fairly depressing too…. There are at least 20 restauants within a five mile radius and they offer a range of choices including hambergers, steaks, ribs, pizza and italian, chinese and sushi, indian and to top it off there are both a McDonalds and a KFC. Some of these are very nice restaurants, but the selections offered are depressingly mundane.

Beyond all of that, the work environment is good and everything else is okay. I escaped from the B&B for a number of hours on Saturday, caught Transformers, and picked up a copy of HP7, so I could finish reading it… which I had before the end of Saturday. I’m very much looking forward to departing and returning to my regular life, there is much I miss, and what little connection I have to my digital world makes the separation all the worse.

Well, there is actual work to be accomplished, and I should probably get to work on it. I’m just hoping there aren’t too many more let downs in the next few days.

Nearly time to go

July 28, 2007

This is going to be mercifully short. In nine hours I should be in the air on the first leg of the flight to S. Africa. I won’t say that I accomplished everything, but I’m now well beyond the panic mode, and just attempting to complete as many things as possible before I must leave.

I am of course excited, but at the same time a lot of faith is being placed in my knowledge and abilities. I just hope that I live up to the hype.

I’m uncertain when I will be online next. At Heathrow tomorrow, or from the bed and breakfast on Monday, or the lab in S. Africa on Tuesday…. it will be mystery. If I were you, I’d start up a betting pool over in the comments section- but that would likely be illegal, so you may not wish to pursue that concept.

Take care, stay cool, and I’ll be in touch-

Well, I did return to work last night from midnight until 5am. It allowed me to get much done on the work front. Between that, and this afternoon I’ve made some impressive progress-


  • Will and Power of Attorney
  • Room reservations for SCA
  • Seeds shipped to Germany
  • All orders but 1, and that’s not essential
  • A large portion of the plant transfers
  • Hotel for Wednesday night pre-D*C, Hyatt Regency

Big things left to do-

  • Plant transfers, hopefully by the end of the day
  • Presentation– tomorrow and during/following travel
  • Photocopy and distribute documentation
  • Coordinate cat-sitting and send out contact lists
  • Last minute shopping
  • Pick up new phone
  • Final cleaning of home
  • Nearly forgot— Rush Concert, tomorrow night!
    • I know, how could I nearly forget about Rush…..

Given where I was a few days ago, it’s looking more manageable. I’m now down to exactly 48 hours to the plane lifting off. Must make the most of the few hours remaining and go work with my plants.